By 2010, Giambattista Valli was becoming the Valentino of his generation. Not in scale—who could compete with the Last Emperor for lavish living?—but in the way the two Italians share a penchant for the jet set, as well as a mutual appreciation for the moneyed and titled women who populate it.
If Valli’s personal style tends toward the high-low mix (he wears his signature strand of seventeenth-century Mughal pearls with jeans and sneakers), his womenswear is a rocket ride into the stratosphere of chic. As the Vogue writer Plum Sykes commented, his evening dresses “are the closest to couture” that ready-to-wear could possibly produce.
Valli’s career began in his native city when—after completing studies there and in London—he landed a job with the Italian master Roberto Capucci. (The Capucci atelier, he said, “was all about trying to defy gravity!”) Stints at Fendi and Krizia followed. Then, in 1997, he moved to Paris to work for Emanuel Ungaro, eventually becoming his hand-picked successor. “At Ungaro,” Valli later told Vogue, “I discovered the flou”—soft drapery—”and the language of Paris.”
These interests carried over into his own line, launched in 2005. Before its debut, Valli said that his aim was to create a style based on line and silhouette (as opposed to the decoration he had focused on as creative director at Emanuel Ungaro). “I want,” he declared, “a woman to feel the cut of the scissors in the clothes.”
The scissor-cut lines Valli has since favored include the cocoon (a shape especially well suited to his sideline work for Moncler Gamme Rouge) and a structured New Look silhouette that harks back to the glamour sirens of the Cinecittà in its heyday, and to the postwar portraits of Irving Penn. “I love pieces when you don’t know whether they are from the past, the future, or right now,” Valli has said.
The timeless sophistication of the Giambattista Valli label certainly has resonated with its clientele: From 2005 to 2008, sales nearly tripled.
“The hardest thing in fashion is not to be known for a logo, but to be known for a silhouette.”
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